A guide to competitions

What is an Open Meet?

Competitions or Meets are classified as “open” or “closed”.

  • An Open Meet, as the name implies, is open to all and usually hosted by another swimming club.
  • Closed competitions are for selected groups only e.g. North West Regional Age Groups, Lancashire County Championships.

At all Meets included in our competition calendar, the club provides Coaches and/or Team Managers to support the swimmers and we stay together as a team. Any club swimmers can enter provided they meet the entry criteria (see below) and will be competing as individuals against other swimmers from both BMSS and other clubs. There will always be an “Age as at” date given in the entry details (usually the last day of the Meet OR 31st December). This dictates what age group you will be competing in. Swimmers can only compete from the age of 9 in England.

You don’t need to be invited to enter Meets by a coach. If you would like to try competitive swimming, just keep an eye on forthcoming Meets listed on our website or via email, for entry details. You can find a link here

If you are not sure then speak to your coach, who will help you decide if a Meet is suitable. Entry fees are payable by the swimmer/parents.

The top three positions in each event and each age group (and sometimes the top eight) usually receive an award eg. a medal. The age groups are often single year age groups (especially for the younger swimmers), and sometimes double eg. 10-11 years. Heats are seeded and swum according to entry time, irrespective of age. There may also be overall competition awards for the top male and female swimmers.

Some Meets take place in a 25m pool and are called Short Course. Others will be swum in a 50m pool and are called Long Course. When first entering Meets, it is probably best to stick to Short Course Meets.

Competitions are targeted at different standards of swimmer and are designated a level between 1 and 4. BMSS enters Meets at all levels so that all our swimmers have a chance to compete at the right level for them.

Licensing/Grading System

Swim England (formerly the ASA) licenses Meets at levels 1 (highest) to 4 (lowest).

  • Level 1 Meet will have minimum qualifying times and is broadly aimed at swimmers aiming for National Qualifying Times (NQTs).
  • Level 2 Meets have minimum qualifying times and upper limit times; these are aimed at those looking for Regional and County qualifying times (QTs).
  • Level 3 Meets typically have upper limit QTs (swimmers may not enter if their times are faster than the specified QTs) and are aimed at County and Club swimmers.
  • Level 4 Meets may have QTs in the same way as Level 3 meets, but they have more freedom in terms of using electronic timing and qualified officials. These are typically club galas.

Why Should I Enter an Open Meet?

An Open Meet is the only way for you to get qualifying times, as an individual, to be able to enter County, Regional and National events. It’s a way of measuring yourself against others, improving your Personal Best times and maybe even winning medals!

Entry Procedure

The procedure for entry is the same for all meets.

  • Check the information on the website to ensure that the meet is suitable and that you do not have any other commitments on the relevant day(s).
  • Decide which events you would like to enter. Bear in mind that entering too many events will be very tiring and may mean you do not swim at your best. If in doubt ask your coach who will be happy to advise you. Open Meets often have early starts and mean long days.
  • Fill out the entry form and, before the closing deadline, hand it together with payment to your group Rep. Cheques for the relevant amount should be made payable to “BMSS” – or, if you have paid via PayPal, please provide proof of payment to your Rep when handing in your entry form.
  • Entries will not be processed unless the fees are paid in advance.
  • We then collate all the entries and send the information to the host club.

Filling out the Entry Form

In most cases, we use the standard Entry form. You must fill out all the information requested as otherwise it could cause delays in processing and submitting the entry forms.

In most cases, we use the standard Entry form. You must fill out all the information requested as otherwise it could cause delays in processing and submitting the entry forms.

•           The swimmer’s Swim England number is required. This is a wholly numeric reference (ie. 123456), and can be found on the swimmer’s Swim England ranking profile online, which all swimmers should have. Follow the link and enter your last name to find your name and number.


•           Only enter events permitted for your age.

•           Include your “personal best times” (PBs) in the box provided against each event to be entered. You can find your PBs on https://www.swimmingresults.org/individualbest/. (PBs should include the full time, down to hundredths of a second eg. 3.02.45 and not just to the nearest whole second or tenth of a second). Times used on entry forms must have been achieved at a Licensed Meet (an official Swim England accredited meet), only in special circumstances may times achieved in training, at club time trials, in a gala or league competition be used.

Some Meets require times achieved in a 25m (short course) pool and others in a 50m (long course) pool. If you have a PB achieved in a short course pool and you are entering a long course Meet, you can convert your PB. There is a conversion tool on www.pullbuoy.co.uk. If you do not have a PB time for that event (maybe it’s your first Meet?) then you can put N/T (ie. “No time” but only when no qualifying time is required). Otherwise ask your coach about entry times.

Closing Dates

The BMSS closing date is always earlier than the organisers’ closing date, and is set to enable us to process all the information and return it to the meet organisers in time; if entries are late then the date may be missed and all BMSS entries would be rejected.

Some meets operate on a first come, first served entry basis, and in these cases entries need to be in well in advance of the organisers’ stated closing date to try and ensure our entries are accepted.

Qualifying Times

Competitions are limited to certain durations so this means that organisers have to limit the entries. This is done through qualifying times. Meet requirements usually include qualifying times and sometimes a separate list of slower consideration times.

If qualifying times are stipulated, only swimmers who have achieved those times or faster are able to enter that event. Even then they are not guaranteed entry. If the meet is oversubscribed, swimmers with the slower entry times may be rejected or “scratched” from that event. Those entering with consideration times have to wait and see whether their entries are accepted or rejected.

Lists of scratched entries are usually available on the relevant organisation’s website, and the swimmer’s coach will be informed in advance of the meet. The fee for a scratched entry is refunded via the Competition Secretary. Sometimes there is an upper time limit as well as a lower limit to prevent higher standard swimmers from entering lower level competitions.

Procedures at Meets

To ensure the safety of our swimmers, all those competing need to see the coach or team manager when they arrive. Please note that all swimmers will always be required to stay with the team and not sit with their parents. This is good for team spirit but will also ensure that no races are missed. If they need to leave poolside for any reason, they must tell the coach or team manager where they are going. Parents should collect their children promptly once they have finished all their races for the day and sign out with the coach/team manager.

Meet Programmes

Meet programmes are available for sale at most venues, listing all swimmers in each event in order of seed time, and providing general information about the event. They are very useful if only to work out when your child is likely to be swimming and schedule comfort breaks and trips to the café accordingly! Occasionally programmes are only available to download online – so please check the hosting club’s website in advance of travelling to galas, to allow you to print out a copy if required!


There is usually some form of electronic timing in use at meets. Timekeepers provide backup in the event that the system is not operating. The results of each race will be shown on the display board, but they have to be ratified by the referee and declared so by the announcer before they are deemed “official”. There may be disqualifications for the infringement of technical or stroke rules, or the electronic timing may not have been operating correctly (eg. a swimmer may not have touched the pad hard enough to trigger it).

Official results are usually posted on the host club or organisation’s website within a couple of days. We also update each swimmers times / results on our own website for you and the coaches to be able to see.

For further information please contact me or Antony.

Ric Howard – BMSS Head Coach at bmss.richoward@outlook.com